Performance mobilizing mental control mechanisms in sports

Dr.Hab., Professor Yu.V. Baykovsky1
Dr.Biol., Professor N.G. Samoylov2
PhD, Associate Professor A.V. Aleshicheva2
1Russian State University of Physical Education, Sports, Youth and Tourism (SCOLIPE), Moscow
2Ryazan State Medical University named after academician I.P. Pavlov, Ryazan

Keywords: performance mobilizing mental control mechanism, extreme situations, ethical and spiritual resource, willpower, fortitude.

Introduction. Mental health is considered one of the key factors for the athletic personality progress supported by the relevant motivations, values, ethical and spiritual priorities etc. [3, 4]. It is the factor that should act as a system-forming one in the development of the athlete’s personality, where goal-setting in his/ her motivational-need sphere is filled with ethical and spiritual essence. After all, in extreme situations, highly qualified athletes commit highly ethical and spiritual actions. Tactical, technical and other special types of training are the most important, but not the only factors affecting the athlete’s personality, they are merely tools for the development of common human capabilities.
However, despite the fact that the authors emphasize the relevance of this problem, the insight into the mechanism of mobilization of athletes’ mental and physical working capacity has not been provided yet [4, 7].
Objective of the study was to postulate the performance mobilizing mental control mechanism in highly qualified athletes.
Methods and structure of the study. We conducted a content analysis, axiomatic and hermeneutic.
Conceptually, it is assumed that there is a sequence of conditions and processes that ensure a rapid increase in the degree of actualization of athletes’ capabilities when surviving extreme conditions of sports activity.
Results and discussion. Caught in an extreme situation, athletes start perceiving information about rapidly changing conditions of their activity. The information and energy flows that have an objective influence on athletes are processed through personal inner world, due to which a subjective primordial image of the developments is created. At this stage, both the value-semantic sphere and ethical and spiritual resource are activated. Moreover, that is where the highest level of structural organization of the system of personal value orientations becomes morally significant. An essential component of the value system is awareness, which, according to T.V. Galkina, is the "highest level of development of consciousness" [4, p. 44]. Awareness of circumstances contributes to the consistency between the internal and external, which is only possible if the semantic component is functionally active. In search for an answer to the question: Do I have a reason why I should take risks in an extreme situation? [8] To ensure the teams’/ city’s success, country’s image, i.e. happiness and well-being of others?, the average orientation level is activated in addition to the highest level of value orientations. These are the orientations towards socially approved values or those of the surrounding people who matter most.
This process is followed by the semantic assessment of the subsequent actions undertaken by athletes, with the mandatory inclusion of understanding and awareness of the true meaning of the socially and physically apparent results of their actions. This process occurs owing to the implementation of the anticipation mechanism.
The semantic assessment, scheduling and planning of the ways out of the emerged extreme situations is accompanied by emotional reactions. The latter, depending on the expected results of athletes’ emotional experience, can be both positive and negative. From this moment, intrapersonal conflicts begin to aggravate, thus giving a hefty boost to the search for an answer to the question: Is it worth or not worth the risk? For example, what is the true meaning of the risk of getting injured? Here, conscience is activated, and there arises the following question: How will my coach, the federation administration, teammates, people closest to me, and others evaluate my actions? In these seconds, spirituality manifests itself as belonging to the general, understanding, a kind of confrontation between the "inner Selves", and involvement in spiritual conflicts. This is a very short period of time, characterized by extreme tension, struggle of values and vices, a piercing internal look through the prism of assessing personal responsibility for own decision and reaching the bifurcation point. From this position, there can be two ways out only.
If resolution of internal conflicts leads to the victory of negative (for the athlete) consequences of the decision made, which, as a rule, happens against the background of the low level of ethical and spiritual resource, with its narrowly focused interests and ideals, the desire to pursue own ambition slackens, being hampered by the phobic manifestations. This is one of the routes from the bifurcation point.
Another one is a path of exaltation, an unshakable faith in the positive outcome of own actions, an increase of perseverance and determination on the path towards the achievement of the set goal, i.e. inspiration or sublimation of the meaning of own actions and thirst for victory. In these moments, the spiritual and moral core of the personality begins to dominate over self-centeredness, there is an outbreak of spiritual ecstasy that generates a state of high spirituality, going outside the boundaries of own individuality and an obsessive drive arisen from a moral impulse to rise above oneself. This is a special spiritual and moral state called "fortitude", which makes it possible to prevent deflection from the set goal and resist the general biological law of self-preservation. That is why, with equal physical and mental components of the athlete’s sports capabilities, fortitude acts as a foundation, the ideal support that makes it possible to hit own "all-time high" under the current conditions.
At the same time, depending on fortitude, the information and power component of ethical and spiritual resource was found to catalyze performance, the realization of which leads to the possibility to overcome extreme conditions. It is willpower that provides an obsessive drive for the realization of own moral positions: duty, honor, responsibility, socially significant goals, etc. The ethical and spiritual resource creates a specific mechanism of volitional functional manifestations [5], the implementation of which is based on the energy component. In the volitional control mechanism, it is the transformation of the given action (task) into a personal one, the combination of the required behavior with moral motives and values that are important [5]. The willpower strengthening occurs by changing the meaning of the required (or planned) actions.
At the behavioral level, will is always a concentrated energy activity that determines volitional actions undertaken regardless of objective conditions by overcoming own internal obstacles. It is the internal intellectual background that performs the function of conscious regulation of purposeful activity [5]. It determines such organization of the subject’s motives, during which the set goal acts as a prevailing motive of his/ her activity. In terms of the high level of ethical and spiritual resource and unexpected flip of events, the athlete, being guided by the internal intellectual background and anticipation, assumes a positive outcome of his future actions, fosters existing motivations and intentions and forms new ones, makes a deliberate decision about actions and activities.
As a result, the athlete acquires "willpower" and "fortitude". From a psychological approach, this state is characterized by turbulent feelings and impulses of high intensity, and, as A. Maslow puts it, these are "peak experiences", emotional and semantic upheavals that are similar to ecstasy. This condition results in the functional transformation of socially incomprehensible and called "negative" qualities that are psychologically significant in the process of regulation of not only volitional behavior, but also inspiring effects. The importance of this transformation lies not only in the projection of these processes on achieving victory, but also on the psychological health of athletes [1].
The driving factor influencing the degree of manifestation of functional transformations is a conscious-semantic need, activated under the influence of ethical and spiritual resource, which causes the formation of connections between two subsystems: 1) mental reflection of reality; 2) activation-energizing, resulting in the formation of the functional system of mental control of behavior and activity [6].
Conclusion. The psychophysiological processes manifested in the ability to regulate and control the psyche by means of physiological functions, being the material base for their implementation, should be considered the main processes in actualization of the mobilization readiness of athletes to overcome difficult competitive conditions.
In the specified mechanism, evaluation of the potentials of individual athletes and their results, the search for the meaning and significance of this evaluation is carried out through the spiritual, moral and semantic sphere (the core of the psychological health of an individual), while the final rise to the level of "supra-individuality" occurs due to the combination of two subsystems: mental reflection of reality and activation-energizing one, forming a single functional system according to the principle of "information and power consistency of reflection", as described by L.M. Vekker [2].


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Mental health is considered one of the key factors for the athletic personality progress supported by the relevant motivations, values, ethical and spiritual priorities etc. The study analyzes the performance mobilizing mental control mechanisms in sports. It was assumed that these mechanisms comprise an indispensable part of the individual behavior control system. The study found that the ethical and spiritual values and priorities may be considered a core element of an athletic personality of special importance for the performance mobilizing when required by the sport-specific extreme situations. The individual ethical and spiritual resource was found to catalyze performance under pressure and improve the stress tolerance. The study found correlations of the values and priorities in their synergy with anticipation qualities and analyzed the sport-specific benefits of the generally negative personality qualities (like depression, anxiety, frustration etc.) in the situations when the individual psychophysical resource needs to be mobilized to take the risks. Based on the study data, we offer a fortitude building concept, with the fortitude viewed as a sort of ‘organ’ or separate system to mobilize the spiritual and ethical personality values and priorities for success under pressure. Fortitude was found correlated with the individual willpower, with their synergy helping overcome the personality contradictions with their ‘internal intellectual background’. On the whole, the individual ethical and spiritual values and priorities with their conscientious energizing aspects were classified as the uplifting and inspiring power of special effect on the volitional control in sports.